SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden says he's as competitive as the next person when it comes to wanting to win. Heck, he used to chase officials up the stairs after meets to complain about scores.
But Friday night when his fourth-ranked Red Rocks' 20-home-meet win streak fell to second-ranked Stanford in a meet that was tied going into the last event, all Marsden could really feel was pride. After all, he'd lost two seniors to injury in the past week and had freshmen doing all but nine of his 24 routines, including the two anchor routines in the toughest event, beam.
Stanford took the meet with its season-best beam set (49.325 to Utah's 49.00 on floor), beating the Utes 196.825-196.50, season-best scores for both teams.
The Huntsman Center house of 13,835 included Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, whose girlfriend is Cardinal Nicolle Pechanec. Also on the Stanford team is Ashley Morgan, daughter of baseball great Joe Morgan.
Morgan's mother was there, said Stanford coach Kristen Smyth.
"I'm just so impressed, and proud of my team, what they've done," Marsden said.
And his athletes seemed to feel the same way after their first loss of the season.
"I thought we did pretty good under the circumstances," said senior Gael Mackie. "Stanford's a really good team, and it was, like, a pretty close meet going into floor. It's been hard with the challenges that we've faced."
Mackie contributed 9.875 on bars, 9.725 on beam and 9.875 in her first floor routine of the year, even though her last tumbling pass was watered down as she tries to come back from a severe ankle injury last summer.
Marsden had planned to use Mackie only if one of his first five floor-workers had a problem because she wasn't completely ready, but when he asked Mackie before freshman Corrie Lothrop performed as the No. 5 person in the lineup, Mackie said she wanted to do it. Her outstanding dance routine got the crowd whipped up to end the meet, even if the Utes weren't going to win.
"If you had told me a week ago," said Marsden, "that we were without Kyndal (Robarts, out at least a month with a knee injury) and Jacq (mild concussion), six routines by seniors, and 15 routines by freshmen tonight, and we're within three-and-a-half tenths of Stanford, I'd never have believed you. I think we did an incredible job tonight, and I think we can still get better."
"We had fun tonight. I think we accomplished all our goals, so I think we had a lot to be proud of," said junior Stephanie McAllister, who had a career-best all-around of 39.40 to finish second to Stanford's Alyse Ishino (39.475). "There was a lot to be happy about. Everyone stayed together, and we stayed in our little Utah bubble, and it was fun to be here. There's still things that we can work on, but overall it was close, and I think we still did a good job as a team."
Smyth was happy her team battled so well, especially on beam, even if it was the national leader on that event going in.
She said she's been trying to get on Marsden's home schedule for a long time because of the atmosphere, adding Stanford hasn't been here since 2007 for the national championships. That was the year Utah last lost a home regular-season meet (to UCLA). Now, of course, Stanford and Utah will be regulars since the Utes join the Pac-12 next season.
Some of Utah's highlights included a 9.875 vault from freshman Victoria Shanley — her first collegiate competition in any event. She was pressed into service with the two seniors out. That helped Utah to tie its season-high of 49.275, even with a makeshift lineup. Also, McAllister and Cortni Beers had career highs on beam (both 9.85s), and Salt Lake freshman Mary Beth Lofgren popped a 9.90 beam as Utah's last one up to keep the Utes tied with Stanford after Morgan scored 9.925 on floor. Utah scored a season-high 49.15 on that event, and it tied its season-best of 49.00 on floor.
In the first all-around of her career, Lofgren totaled 39.225, and Lothrop added 39.15 despite the .1 out-of-bounds deduction on floor.
Utah remains at home next Friday when Arizona State visits.